As the United States struggled in the throes of the Great Depression, a new Army Corps of Engineers district was created in New Mexico under the command of Captain Hans Kramer. Although flood control and irrigation projects in the sparsely populated region of the Canadian River were not economically feasible in 1929, widespread unemployment in the early 1930's helped to convince President Franklin D. Roosevelt to approve the building of Conchas Dam.
The Corps established the Tucumcari District on August 2, 1935, to construct a dam for the purposes of irrigation, flood control, and water supply. As activities increased at the site, the local economy received a much-needed boost. This infusion of federal funds and WPA labor gradually spread to include a broad area of the state. The success of the project was a major consideration in the eventual expansion of the district’s boundaries to include other watersheds in the states of Colorado and Texas, as well as New Mexico.
With the completion of the Conchas project, John Martin Dam at Caddoa, Colorado, became the new focal point of district activity. Tucumcari District personnel transferred to Caddoa and on December 4, 1939, the organizational name was officially changed to U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, Caddoa District. Work proceeded there until the dam was 85 percent complete. With the world at war, however, construction at John Martin Dam was temporarily put on hold.
Soon after the onset of World War II, in early 1942, the district headquarters was transferred to Albuquerque and given its current name along with an additional mission. Switching from civil works projects to wartime activities, and with a peak workforce of 3,039 people, the Albuquerque District performed real estate and construction services in support of numerous military projects in the region. Among those projects was the work at Los Alamos Laboratory where scientists labored in development of atomic energy and its application to weapons.
After the war, the district resumed civil works construction and completed John Martin Dam. Other major projects followed in the ensuing years. They are, in chronological order: Jemez Canyon Dam, Abiquiu Dam, Two Rivers Dam, and Cochiti Dam in New Mexico; Trinidad Dam in Colorado, and Santa Rosa Dam in New Mexico.
Today, the district continues several regional civil works projects. In addition, it now provides extensive design and construction services to three New Mexico military bases: Kirtland Air Force Base in Albuquerque, Holloman Air Force Base in Alamogordo, and Cannon Air Force Base in Clovis.